In an exclusive interview

"Students for Nasser bin Ghaith." Dr. Nasser has shown enormous courage and is an inspiring role model

10 Jun 2022

Last April, a group of students from the College of Oslo in Norway launched a campaign to advocate for imprisoned Emirati academic and economist Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith, with the aim of raising awareness and reviving his case.

In a short period of time, the campaign succeeded in generating widespread media coverage and renewed attention to the case of Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith and his suffering.

EDAC interviewed members of the group about why they chose Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith to advocate for him and about the group's goals and plans.

What is your group? Can you tell us a little about yourselves?

We are a group of MA students in the Human Rights Theory and Practice program at the College of Oslo. The master's program is under the direction of the Norwegian Center for Human Rights. The collaboration with Scientists at Risk enabled us to conduct an advocacy campaign for Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith in our study. His case was chosen because his arrest and detention are a violation of freedom of expression and academic freedom.

Why did you choose Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith in particular as an advocate?

His outstanding academic career has made him very well known. Dr. Nasser was the first Emirati to serve as a lecturer at the Abu Dhabi branch of Paris-Sorbonne College. He mainly researched in the field of international business law and specialized in business conglomerates. Therefore, his concern is very relevant to us as students.

As students, we believe that freedom of speech and expression are highly valued in academia and that those who work in academia need to be especially protected from abuse. We feel that Dr. Nasser has shown tremendous courage by publicly challenging the authoritarian government for human rights violations, especially in a country that controls freedom of expression. That is truly inspiring.

Moreover, Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith has received far less social media attention than other members of the Emirati Group of Five.

During his arrest and trial, there was a great response from human rights organizations, but since then, attention to his case has waned. Today, Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith receives no media coverage, no support, and no appreciation from the international community. For this reason, we are advocating on his behalf.

What is the main goal of your campaign to advocate for Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith?

We are very concerned about his current health condition. We have known that Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith is sometimes too weak to stand on his own and has aged significantly in the five years he has spent in prison. Bin Ghaith accused UAE authorities of torture and incommunicado detention.

 Against this backdrop, the main goal of our campaign is to provide Bin Ghaith with proper medical care and access to vital medicines, which are blocked by UAE authorities.

We interviewed Dr. Nora Svias, a Norwegian psychologist who specializes in torture and its psychological consequences. Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith was convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Law, which means that UAE authorities can hold him indefinitely even after he has served his 10-year sentence.

 Being told that you may never get out of prison is a dangerous element of torture and creates despair. Nora Svias emphasized that this can have serious negative effects on people's health. This practice is common in Emirati prisons and poses a great risk to Bin Ghaith. More pressure should be put on UAE authorities to ensure that Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith is treated humanely during his detention. Emirati officials must be held accountable for his torture and mistreatment.

What have you done to support Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith? What ideas do you plan to support in the future?

Since there is no social media around Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith's case, we have set up Instagram and Twitter accounts at ID @cares4binghaith. This is to raise awareness about the problem of Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith and the abuses in prison.

The group will also release a video to raise awareness about bin Ghaith's case and the abuses in prison and encourage others to advocate for him, as well as a Wikipedia page about him that the group plans to create.

In addition, we plan to reach out to embassies and the College of Paris-Sorbonne, which has remained silent on bin Ghaith's arrest. The college has downplayed its connection and working relationship with Dr. Bin Ghaith. We call on universities, student unions, and partners of the College of Paris-Sorbonne to respond in the case of Dr. Bin Ghaith.

We hope that Scientists at Risk will continue our work after this semester. We will therefore draft an email to propose the nomination of Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith for the Sakharov Prize. We are also looking for important connections to initiatives that could help Bin Ghaith in the long run.

Who are the most prominent students involved in the campaign to support Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith?

Helen Holm Galad, Francesca Faggiano, Lorenzo Bossi, and Samantha Knoll are among others from the College of Oslo Master's program.